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Youth Assembly to have School Kit Challenge


Youth at Abbotsford 2007 played a series of get-to-know-you games

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February 27, 2009
-Deborah Froese

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Participants of the Mennonite Church Canada Youth Assembly on July 6-10, 2009, will have the opportunity to apply principles of the assembly theme “Living Inside Out,” through a special service project. They will be challenged to collect and assemble material for 10,000 school kits destined for children in Cuba.

The School Kit Challenge will connect youth with churches who struggle in the face of poverty and natural disaster. As an added incentive for participants, Youth Assembly organizers have applied to set a Guinness World Record with the project. The kits are intended to bring healing and hope in the aftermath of three hurricanes, and they will be distributed through a Cuban church body that MC Canada has been relating to for more than 20 years.

The gift of a school kit can help transform the life of a student by providing basic supplies for education. Participants are asked to bring material for at least five school kits (see sidebar). Additional sponsors and supporters are also invited to contribute.

Jeanette Hanson, a long-term Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker with years of international experience in China will introduce the project to the youth. She connects the theme of “Living Inside Out” to the idea that whatever we do as Christians, we must do in the name of Christ.

In an email exchange she writes, “I think sometimes we segment our lives. This is work for the church. This is my job. This is for my family. What would it look like if we did everything in the name of the Lord Jesus? What if we really took that seriously? I'm looking forward to hearing from the youth and seeing what that means for them.”

The “Living Inside Out” theme is based upon Colossians 3:12-17 which encourages Christians to wear inner convictions on the outside, visible to the world like clothing. Through a variety of worship services, seminars, late night activities and a selection of other optional service projects, youth will be invited to make a commitment or to strengthen their commitment to Christ, and to help them find their roles in the unfolding story of God’s people.

Guest speakers for Youth Assembly ‘09 include Shane Claiborne, a founding partner of The Simple Way and the author of The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, and Michele Hershberger, author, playwright and Chair of the Bible and Ministry department of Hesston College.

Claiborne will reveal the tragic mess we’ve made of the world and share his conviction that another world is possible through stories from his own experience. Claiborne’s service has varied widely – from working alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta to serving with the Iraq Peace Team (a project of Voices in the Wilderness and Christian Peacemaker Teams) where he witnessed the military bombardment of Baghdad and visited survivors.

In a telephone interview, Hershberger’s enthusiasm for the Assembly and its theme are clearly audible. “I love the saying [living inside out] because I think that’s exactly what we’re called to do…We’re putting on God’s identity for us.”

Her experience in youth ministry and with her own three children, now ages 15, 20 and 22, has convinced her that young people crave authenticity. “They crave Christian adults who are authentic and can admit what they don’t know, share stories of their own brokenness.” Hershberger acknowledges that the need for adults to walk the talk has always been important, but it is more critical now than ever because the electronic culture explosion has increased the fragility of real community and real commitment.

Youth Assembly 2009 will take place on the campus of Briercrest College and Seminary in Caronport, Sask. Organizers hope that the interaction between youth groups from across Canada will result in the development of long-lasting faith memories and new friendships and across the church’s geographic and multi-cultural diversity. For more information and links to registration material, go to Mennonite Church Canada Youth Assembly 2009.


Sidebar: Help youth meet Assembly ’09 School Kit Challenge

If you would like to help Youth Assembly ’09 participant from your congregation (or elsewhere) meet the challenge of collecting material for and assembling 10,000 school kits and set a new Guinness World Record, you can make a monetary pledge or a donation of new materials.

The cost per kit is approximately $7-10. School kit bags will be provided. All monetary gifts to support this project may be sent to Mennonite Church Canada and ear-marked “Youth Assembly School Kits.”

School Kit Contents (new materials only)

  • 4 spiral or perforated notebooks (about 21.5 cm x 27 cm/8.5”x10.5” and 140-160 pages)
  • 4 unsharpened pencils
  • 1 ruler (flat, flexible plastic; indicating both 30cm and 12”)
  • 1 package of 12 coloured pencils (in packaging)
  • 1 large pencil eraser

To make a pledge to the School Kit Challenge, contact Youth Ministries Facilitator, Anna Rehan